In the year since she filed suit against the Tarrant Regional Water District over a permit to host Fort Worth Oktoberfest, Shanna Granger’s first festival has come and gone. Her company, Prost Production, is well on its way to organizing the 2023 edition

But the legal saga between Granger and her former employer is far from over. 

Last summer, Granger alleged that the water district violated her constitutional property rights when general manager Dan Buhman terminated a permit allowing Granger to host an Oktoberfest celebration at Panther Island Pavillion. She seeks up to $1 million in damages, citing unexpected costs and hardship from being forced to move the event to Trinity Park. 

That claim will be allowed to move forward following a May 11 ruling by Tarrant County District Judge Chris Taylor. He ruled against the water district’s request to dismiss the lawsuit without going to a full trial. 

Where the case stands

The Tarrant Regional Water District is asking an appeals court to throw out Shanna Granger’s claims without going to a full trial. The appeals court could overrule District Judge Chris Taylor’s May decision, which would have allowed the property rights claim to go to trial.

Joel Geary, an attorney hired by the water district, appealed that ruling June 6. The case is now headed to the Texas Second District Court of Appeals in Fort Worth. Geary’s appeal means that all other court proceedings, including a trial, are automatically paused. 

In his May ruling, Taylor also threw out Granger’s complaint that the agency violated the Texas Open Meetings Act when Buhman consulted board members about the permit outside of a public board meeting. 

While Buhman acknowledged speaking with board members Leah King and James Hill about the permit issue, he said the decision was his to make and never involved an illegal quorum of board members. 

The Texas Open Meetings Act does not provide a remedy for monetary damages like the ones claimed by Granger, Taylor ruled. In a statement, Granger said her legal team respects and concurs with Taylor’s decisions. 

“We recognize that although TRWD may have violated the Open Meetings Act, there is no longer any remedy that the court could grant at this time to address the issue,” Granger said. “However, TRWD wrongfully taking a person’s property rights, and the damages caused by TRWD’s actions in doing so, will be addressed under the inverse condemnation claims in the suit which will be moving forward.”

Water district general counsel Stephen Tatum said the agency’s legal team is pleased the open meetings claim was dismissed and will continue to evaluate options for the sole remaining claims.

J.D. Granger, left, and Shanna Cate Granger, right, listen to a councilmember speak at the Henderson Street bridge ribbon-cutting ceremony in October 2021. (Cristian ArguetaSoto | Fort Worth Report)

How did the case get here?

With the water district stepping away from several recreation and community events, Buhman originally agreed last March to let Granger use the same website URL and event space as the water district’s previous Oktoberfests. 

Last June, Buhman said he rescinded the permit after learning that the water district could not grant a “thing of value,” such as the Oktoberfest branding or venue, to a corporation or individual without undergoing a stringent review process.

Under Section 52 of the Texas Constitution, government agencies are banned from granting public funds or a “thing of value” to a corporation or individual unless the funds are being spent on a “public purpose.”

In sworn depositions, board members said they were also concerned about the appearance of giving preferential treatment to Granger, the wife of former Panther Island executive J.D. Granger and daughter-in-law of U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth. Shanna Granger accepted a $150,000 loan from her mother-in-law to fund the event, according to previous Fort Worth Report coverage.

As an event director, Shanna Granger previously organized Oktoberfests on behalf of the Trinity River Vision Authority and Tarrant Regional Water District. She left the agency in November 2021, six months before her husband resigned from his role.

Oktoberfest guests drink and dance on Sept. 23, 2022 at Trinity Park. (Cristian ArguetaSoto | Fort Worth Report)

Granger’s property rights claim still on the table

Granger estimates she spent up to $75,000 on production of the event between March 2022, when she was granted the Panther Island Pavilion permit, and May 2022, when it was rescinded. She spent at least $40,000 more to produce the event at another location, according to a Feb. 10 filing by attorneys Krupali Patel and Greg Jackson. 

Patel and Jackson argue that the water district violated the “takings clause” of the Texas Constitution, which states that no person’s property shall be taken, damaged or destroyed without adequate compensation unless the person consents to it. 

Terminating Granger’s permit is akin to taking away her short-term lease to Panther Island Pavilion, which counts as a property interest, Patel and Jackson wrote. But the water district argues that the permit was a license that granted Granger the privilege to use the pavilion, not a lease granting a tenant exclusive possession of the property. 

“It is beyond dispute that the permit created no leasehold interest in Prost Production,” Joel Geary, an attorney hired by the water district, wrote in a Feb. 14 filing. “Without a leasehold interest, Prost Production has no ‘property’ interest protectible by the due course of law and takings clauses of the Texas Constitution.”

But Patel and Jackson argue that the terms of the permit contained terms very similar to a leasing contract. 

“The question of whether the permit is a property interest is a question of law for the court to decide,” they wrote. 

Taylor agreed, denying the water district’s attempt to dismiss the case. While the case is headed to appeals court, the two parties could resolve the dispute outside of court through a mediation process. Attorneys for Granger and the water district previously agreed to private mediation last August. 

Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. You can reach them at

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Haley Samsel is the environmental reporter for the Fort Worth Report. You can reach them at Her coverage is made possible by a grant from the Marilyn Brachman Hoffman...